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Setting Priorities Report: Top Work Challenges (50 Stats)
January 10, 2024

The workplace is an ocean of competing priorities – with every person and team trying to protect as much time as possible for their goals. But with so many tasks, projects, and meetings on your plate, how do you prioritize enough time for the things that matter most?

Prioritization is a powerful method for getting more of your most important work done, but it’s always going to involve trade-offs. Is it more important to make this urgent meeting with a client, or should I attend my daily sync team meeting scheduled at the same time?

Busy professionals have to make decisions like this every day. There’s always going to be 10 different things you could be doing in the next hour – but which one is the highest priority toward your goals?

We surveyed 989 professionals on how they manage and set priorities at work to uncover their top challenges – and trade-offs they’re willing to make to dedicate more time to their urgent priorities. Let’s dive into the data.

Top findings:

What are priorities?

Priorities are the things you want to accomplish, where each one is regarded as more or less important than the other. In the workspace, priorities are set at many levels – each individual worker, team, department, and the organization as a whole works towards specific priorities.

98.2% of people have trouble prioritizing tasks

When we think of priorities, the number one place our minds go is to our project task list. Busy employees are juggling multiple projects, with dozens of tasks for each – making it difficult to know where to start and how to keep up with our deadlines.

And the time most people have available for task work is really short fragmented time blocks between meetings, making it hard to really make a productive dent in your workload before you’re pulled into the next thing.

We asked people how difficult they find it to prioritize urgent task work throughout the workweek, and less than 2% of people have no difficulty.

  • 75.4% have severe difficulty prioritizing task work
  • 17.6% have moderate difficulty prioritizing task work
  • 5.2% have some difficulty prioritizing task work
  • 1.8% have no difficulty prioritizing task work

Task work is extremely difficult to prioritize for over 3/4th of all employees. This major misalignment is often a result of a disconnect between a person's task list and their availability – what time do I have available to get this done. 

96.6% of people are willing to reschedule focus time to attend an urgent meeting

Ultimately, the easiest time to reprioritize for meetings is our own. Quite possibly the reason the average employee works 7.6 hours/week of overtime, 96.6% of people are willing to reschedule focus time work on a task for an urgent meeting.

Here’s how people feel about rescheduling focus time for urgent meetings:

  • 73.2% say yes
  • 23.5% say maybe
  • 3.4% say no

With only 3.4% of people unwilling to give up time for their scheduled task work for an urgent meeting, the vast majority of employees will reschedule their heads-down time to connect for a high-priority discussion.

90.8% of people have trouble prioritizing meetings

Meetings are well known as a high consumer of your time at work – in fact, the average professional has to attend 25.6 meetings every week. 

But meetings are also hardest to prioritize because the set times are inflexible, they involve multiple people, and come with expectations from your team. An urgent issue may pop up that requires a meeting before the end of day, but how do you find time for it when your afternoon is already filled with back-to-back meetings?

We asked people how difficult they find it to prioritize urgent meetings ahead of less important ones throughout the workweek, and shockingly 90.8% of people experience this issue at least once a week.

The more busy a person's work calendar is with meetings, the more difficult it becomes to prioritize their more urgent meetings over one’s they’d be comfortable skipping. Here’s how people reported meeting prioritization issues on a 0-10 scale.

  • 39.8% have severe difficulty prioritizing meetings
  • 34.9% have moderate difficulty prioritizing meetings
  • 16.0% have some difficulty prioritizing meetings
  • 9.2% have no difficulty prioritizing meetings


74.7% of people rated a moderate to severe level of difficulty prioritizing urgent meetings on the calendar, with less than 10% reporting no difficulty at all. It’s incredibly clear that time on the calendar is truly a negotiation with yourself as much as it’s with your team as far as which meetings you have to attend to keep your time truly aligned with your priorities.

Employees average 4.9 hours/week finding time for meetings

This finding was incredibly eye-opening. We asked how much time you estimate spending each week trying to find time for meetings (sharing availability, negotiating conflicts, coordinating across time zones and schedules), and were blown away by the results.

When you truly look back at your time, all of those quick emails and chat discussions trying to find mutual time available to meet rapidly add up. And this really boils down to people trying to defend time for their own priorities. What’s urgent to one person can be less important to another. So negotiating a time quickly becomes another project itself, especially when you need to get more than two people into a meeting.

Here’s a breakdown of how much time/week employees spend finding time for meetings:

  • 6.1% spend more than 20 hours/week
  • 1.0% spend 11-20 hours/week
  • 6.0% spend 6-10 hours/week
  • 51.3% spend 1-5 hours/week
  • 35.6% spend less than 1 hour/week

Just over a third of employees are able to spend less than an hour/week coordinating meeting times, when over 13% spend 6 or more hours/week. Meeting management is most time-consuming for meeting-intensive roles, like for those in sales or accounts, recruitment, as well as management and leadership positions.

93.3% of people are willing to overschedule a recurring internal team meeting to attend an urgent meeting

If you’re in a recurring meeting, you’re likely involved in an ongoing project that has some level of priority in your workload. But these meetings are often overscheduled, and can become status update meetings that may not be the highest-priority use of your time when an urgent meeting needs to get booked. So how important is it that you attend?

We asked people if they would be willing to schedule over a recurring internal meeting to attend an urgent meeting, and found:

  • 53.9% say yes
  • 39.4% say maybe
  • 6.7% say no

It turns out that 93.3% of people are willing to consider scheduling over a recurring internal meeting to make time for an urgent meeting. This doesn’t mean that every meeting is reschedulable, but even the 39.4% of ‘maybe’ responses would consider missing a meeting to sync on an urgent topic that’s a priority for them.

94.2% of people are willing to reschedule a one-on-one meeting to attend an urgent meeting

One-on-one meetings are usually recurring between two people to connect, usually between a manager and a direct report, though many organizations also schedule skip-level and cross-functional one-on-ones between team members.

And people are even more willing to reschedule a one-on-one meeting vs. skipping a recurring internal meeting for an urgent meeting – likely because it’s far easier to catch up with one person than a larger group of people.

Here’s how people feel about rescheduling one-on-one meetings:

  • 66.1% say yes
  • 28.1% say maybe
  • 5.8% say no

In general, one-on-one meetings are already moving around a lot, with 42.4% of all one-on-one meetings being rescheduled a week, and 29.6% of all one-on-one meetings canceled weekly. It comes as no surprise that almost 2/3rd of all people are willing to auto-reschedule these meetings through Smart 1:1s to create availability for an urgent meeting they have to prioritize in their calendar.

Automatically defending priorities with AI

Competing priorities was the central pain point that drove our co-founders to quit their jobs in 2019 to start building Reclaim. Working in a large company juggling many different projects, working across teams, and managing chaotic schedules – the only way to keep up with the work was to be very intentional with their time. And they discovered prioritization wasn’t so much a project management problem – it was calendars that needed to improve.

Prioritization has been a part of Reclaim since the beginning, but our new Priorities release now allows users to seamlessly prioritize everything on their calendars from a P1 (Critical) through P4 (Low) priority scale – including non-Reclaim events.

Before launching Priorities, we asked our users how we could make prioritization even more powerful at Reclaim.

96.5% of people want to set priority levels on meeting events to allow higher-priority meetings to overbook them

While Reclaim has always kept smart events flexible and able to automatically reschedule when priorities changed, users were still managing a ton of meetings on the calendar that weren’t created by Reclaim. 

So when a person needed to book an urgent meeting as soon as possible, Reclaim was only able to show their Task, Habits, and Smart 1:1 Meetings as extra available time, but normal Google Calendar events would still show as unavailable. We asked users on a scale of 0-10, how much they would value the ability to set priorities on meetings not scheduled by Reclaim, and allow Reclaim to overbook them for higher-priority meetings or tasks.

  • 61.3% highly value setting priorities on normal calendar meetings
  • 26.3% moderately value setting priorities on normal calendar meetings
  • 8.9% somewhat value setting priorities on normal calendar meetings
  • 3.5% would never set priorities on normal calendar meetings

The ability to set priority levels on non-Reclaim standard calendar events is now live at Reclaim. These priority levels are perfect for daily sync meetings, recurring meetings, and even non-Reclaim time blocks you’ve set for yourself in Google Calendar that you’d be okay booking over for an urgent meeting. These events can only be overscheduled by a higher-priority Scheduling Link if you’ve changed the non-Reclaim event default from P1 Critical to a lower priority level – Reclaim will never overschedule these events for anything other than a Scheduling Link meeting.

Why is this so important? Because whether it’s an emergency or exciting opportunity that pops up with a customer, partner, or internal team – we need to be flexible enough to automatically shift our time to meet this priority so the moment isn’t missed. Especially when you need to get a lot of people together, the bigger the meeting group, the harder it is to find mutual availability. So even opening up just a few more time blocks on your calendar can help you get an urgent meeting scheduled today vs. having to wait until later in the week.

97.6% of people want to set priority levels for one-on-one meetings to schedule the most important ones first

The average person has 5.6 one-on-one meetings/week, but over half of them are canceled or rescheduled. So how do you make sure the most important one-on-ones that week are actually scheduled and defended on your calendar?

We asked users on a scale of 0-10, how much they would value the ability to set priority levels for Smart 1:1 Meetings so they can schedule their most important one-on-ones first.

  • 60.1% highly value prioritizing one-on-one meetings
  • 28.4% moderately value prioritizing one-on-one meetings
  • 9.1% somewhat value prioritizing one-on-one meetings
  • 2.4% would never prioritize one-on-one meetings

This is incredibly valuable for managers and leaders who juggle many different one-on-one meetings every week. They can set Critical P1 priority levels for the one-on-ones they absolutely cannot miss, and use P2-P4 levels to prioritize all other one-on-ones in the order of importance and urgency. Reclaim will always try to schedule all of your one-on-one meetings, but when you’re managing a jam-packed calendar, you can use these priority controls to ensure you don’t miss time with team members you really need to meet.

While these prioritization trends are a massive problem for employees, finding the time for highly focused work is always within reach. And mastering your prioritization game is even more powerful when your team adopts a productivity mindset that keeps everyone flexible and focused on the most important work first. 

The new Reclaim.ai prioritization system allows your team to protect flexible time for focused work, prioritize all of your meetings on the calendar, and open up more availability for urgent meetings that need to get scheduled ASAP.. 

Remember, there’s always going to be competing priorities in the workplace – the best way to stay focused on your goals is to defend the time you need for your priorities, and keep your schedule flexible for the inevitable priority changes you’ll need to make.

Trend Reports

Setting Priorities Report: Top Work Challenges (50 Stats)

Workforce Trends Report: +100 Stats on Employee Productivity Analytics

Meeting Scheduling Trends Report: 130+ Scheduling Links Stats

Burnout Trends Report: 200+ Employee Stress Stats by Department

Task Management Trends Report: +200 Stats on Managers vs. Individual Contributors

Productivity Trends Report: One-on-One Meeting Statistics

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